An update about the house that’s only sort of about the house:
Over the past two weekends, we’ve made huge and somewhat unexpected progress on two rooms in the house that have been bugging me since we moved in. (That’s the May before last, if you’re new around here. Here’s more info about our move.)
Our two daughters share one bedroom; our two sons share another. When we moved in, the existing paint color was fine to live with for the time being—which was a good thing. We had plenty of other projects going on, sure, but we also had no idea what we wanted the finished spaces to look like. We had to figure out the color, the layout, the details—everything.
Progress came in fits and starts. After living with their rooms for a few months, we moved the furniture around. A few months after that, we tweaked some things and added a few personal details.
In the in-between time, the kids and I talked about their rooms now and then, casually. We never formally made a plan. There was no Pinterest involved.
Then this month, on two successive Saturday mornings, I knew it was time to commit to a paint color for the girls’ room. By some miracle, the girls and I all agreed on the same shade of blue, we rolled it on the wall that day, and it turned out great.
Inspired by that success, the boys and I chose a color the next weekend. We still have one big wall to finish (we chose a deep blue that requires multiple coats) but it looks fantastic.
A year and a few months after the move, we’ve made lots of progress on the house. I’ve been describing it as “slow and steady,” but while I was rolling yet another coat of Ben Moore’s Hudson Bay on my boys’ walls, I realized that wasn’t true at all: our progress has been slow, but it hasn’t been consistent.
In college, we talked about hares and tortoises: some students prefer to attack their assignments at the last minute; other types prefer to do the work bit by bit. Gretchen Rubin talks about sprinters and marathoners: one counts on the creative inspiration an imminent deadline inspires; the other prefers to work on projects steadily, over long periods of time. (Sprinting and procrastinating aren’t the same thing.)
The progress I’ve made this year—whether it’s on the house, or on my bigger writing projects—looks like a sprint, at least from the outside. It looks like long periods—weeks, even months—of nothing, followed by a burst of frenetic activity.
But in many ways, I’m a marathoner. I’m a slow processor. I need time to mull things over. I have a long runway.
Most of what I’ve accomplished in the past year happened in big bursts … but I couldn’t move forward until those ideas had been simmering for a long, long time.
I was explaining the differences between the marathoner and sprinter to Will, saying that I didn’t think I fit neatly into either category. I need time to ponder like a marathoner, but I thrive on the intensity of the sprint.
(Is it essential to figure out which label applies to me? Of course not! But I’m looking ahead to September, when schedules change and new projects begin. The more I know about how I work best, the better I’ll be able to structure my time.)
It took Will all of two seconds to recognize the logical fallacy: he pointed out there’s a giant gap between the sprinter and the marathoner. Maybe I’m a miler?
As I look forward to fall, I’ll be scheduling lots of time blocks for big bursts of activity—and lots and lots of time to ponder between them.
Are you a sprinter, marathoner, or something in between? Do these distinctions help you structure your days?
P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.